“Borjomi is for the Borjomi, not for the Russian oligarchs!” Workers stopped receiving payments when the Russian owner of a Georgian bottling factory was sanctioned. .. Now they are fighting back.

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Protest rally in Borjomi on June 16th

In late April, Georgian company IDS Borjomi, which sells mineral water under the brand name Borjomi, publication Due to financial difficulties caused by the Ukrainian War, both Georgia bottling plants were temporarily shut down. Oligarch Mikhail Fridman, owner of Alfa Group, which owns a majority stake in the company, was sanctioned. Currently, Alpha Group plans to donate its shares to Georgia, which did not help factory employees who had not been paid for two months. Medusa takes a closer look at the town of Borjomi, where protests are taking place.

About 60 employees at the Borjomi factory sit under a homemade canvas tent that has been around since dawn. They have been protesting outside the city’s factory gates, named after the mineral watch company itself, for more than two weeks. Opposite the protesters sit about 50 police officers ready to be arrested if they decide to cross the street, but the police officers look pretty peaceful. They leave their weapons in the car, and some don’t wear bulletproof vests.

“Borjomi is for the Borjomi people, not for the Russian oligarchs!” Read a sign someone made by hand. At a nearby bus stop, there is a banner labeled “Blacklist” and the names of 20 employees who have openly opposed the opposition movement and tried to discourage the participation of colleagues. Some names are labeled “Judah”.

What happened to the Borjomi bottling factory?

Borjomi employees protest on April 29 by IDS Borjomi Georgia, which owns a local bottling plant. publication Due to the Ukrainian war, production was temporarily suspended at two plants in Borjomi. Since 2013, the majority stake in IDS Borjomi International (owning Borjomi Georgia) has been owned by Alfa Group and its founder, Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Target Of Western sanctions after the start of the war.

according to According to a company statement, sanctions have made the factory virtually impossible to operate. This is primarily due to the company’s inability to access its bank account. Factory employees stopped paying and were offered a new contract. The contract paid only half of the previous salary. The majority of employees told the company’s leadership that they would agree, provided that the old salary would be restored as soon as the factory resumed normal operations.The company refused, and after the May 5 protest, 49 employees Dismissal.. Most of them were forklifts or delivery drivers.

Andro Biblidze is one of the 49 workers fired that day. He worked in factories for over 25 years and used forklifts to transport materials between departments. Biblidze told Meduza that his problem with corporate leadership began in May 2021, but the problem initially began. Resolve quickly:

My manager promised me 1200 rally [about $400; the average monthly salary in Georgia at that time was 1,191 lari ($383)] Work for 24 days. But for some reason, it’s always gone. People started beating for a better salary. After that, the workers met with the factory owner.They promised me 1,500 rally [about $500] Everyone was satisfied with the conditions for 24 days. Everyone signed a new contract and got back to work.

According to Andro, after the start of the war in Ukraine, factory leadership brought new contracts to employees. Under the new conditions, employees will receive half of their salary if production goes down. If the factory remains open, workers will be paid on an hourly basis.

In this case, an hourly wage is better than half the salary.But production was interrupted all the time [and we didn’t get paid at all].. Since April, they haven’t even paid us the 50 percent they promised us if the factory was closed.

According to Andro, all workers who refused to sign the new contract were dismissed. Most of them were employees who signed temporary contracts that lasted 3 to 6 months. Workers with permanent contracts were not dismissed.

Return to picket line

On May 19, a few weeks after the factory was closed, Alpha Group statement He said he plans to donate a portion of Borjomi’s shares to the Georgian government. As a result, Mikhail Fridman no longer owns a majority stake and the plant will be able to access its account and resume operations. according to The shares donated to Georgia’s Prime Minister Iraqi Garibashibiri are worth $ 100 million.

A week later, an employee of IDS Borjomi Georgia Agreed reached With company leadership. According to trade union representative George Diasamidze, who helped organize protests in Borjomi, the company has promised to raise employee salaries and maintain existing benefits. The leadership emphasized that it had no effect on the workers who went on strike. Driver Andro Bibritze said of the conversation:

After Prime Minister Garibashibiri came out [with his statement] I got a message from the factory management saying that it was good news for Borjomi workers. They promised a fixed salary instead of an hourly wage. According to the contract, that would be half the amount I was getting before April. That is what we agreed. We understood that there was a war and a crisis. However, there was no payment after that.

On May 31, workers launched another attack. Nearly 800 of them set up tents outside the factory and started protesting, dissatisfied with the new terms that company leadership offered them. They promised they would be there for a long time.

Borjomi workers are protesting. June 16

Workers who were not Paid In April and May, “immediate reinstatement” of the employment of 49 dismissed colleagues, restoration of previous contracts, transition from temporary contracts to permanent contracts, “to protect the rights of factory workers” Requested a collective bargaining agreement.

Georgy Diasamidze emphasized that workers will continue to protest until factory managers meet their demands.

For many Borjomi residents, working in a factory is the only possible source of income. Of the 10,500 inhabitants of Borjomi, 4,500 work in factories. I have the whole family working here. Given that they haven’t been paid for two months, it’s not clear how they are supposed to live and help their children.

Refuse to compromise

IDS Borjomi Georgia spokesman Naniko Kuprashvili did not answer Meduza’s question as to why factory workers were not paid. He said the company would not comment on the dispute while negotiations were in progress.

On June 9, Georgian ombudsman Nino Lomdjaria visited a protester in Borjomi. Lomdjaria said she is aware that pressure and intimidation on employees is being used. She later reported that the workers said she threatened to dismiss the company’s management for participating in the protest and promised to pay only those who did not participate. Lomdjaria I swore We will start the investigation based on the complaint.

A few days later, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili publication The Georgian government has completed negotiations with Mikhail Fridman on the donated shares of the company. He promised that all factory problems would be resolved soon.

According to union representative George Diamidze, after the Garibashibiri statement, protesters were hoping that their problems would be resolved soon, but a few days later nothing had changed. Therefore, on June 16, I decided to block the road in front of the city hall. However, that day, a representative from the Ministry of Health contacted the workers and invited them to a private meeting.

Diasamize said the protesters were each offered a compensation of 10,000 lari (about $ 3,400), but they refused because the proposal did not reach their list of demands. Currently, all factory workers are participating in the protest, except for 400 administrative staff. “We continue to protest and fight for our rights,” said Diasamize.

Talk To Diana Shanaba

Translated by Sam Breeze Ale “Borjomi is for the Borjomi, not for the Russian oligarchs!” Workers stopped receiving payments when the Russian owner of a Georgian bottling factory was sanctioned. .. Now they are fighting back.

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